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Becoming a Police Officer

Becoming a police officer is challenging. To get hired, candidates must go through a rigorous screening process that is similar in most police academies. It begins with the candidates going through a check-list to ensure that (among other things) they are at least 21 years old, hold a high school diploma and are citizens of the United states of America.

Next, the candidates take the written exams also referred to as the entry-level police officer examination.

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Once that is completed, the candidates prepare for the physical ability test, which is a timed test that measures the strength and endurance of candidates in physical exerting conditions common in the job. These tests include running 200 yards or more, doing push-ups, and sit-ups, the obstacle course and the 1.5-mile run. Some academies include a flexibility test.

Candidates are usually given the advice to train and prepare for the physical Endurance tests. Self-assessment is also a good idea before attending the test. Once the candidates have made up their minds to take the tests, they can choose a test date. Some academies offer open entry level testing one Saturday of every month. Candidates can sign up online up to 30 days before testing date. In case candidates are unable to meet their test appointments, they are usually advised to call and cancel the appointment so that they are not disqualified from re-applying for a whole year. On the scheduled day, candidates take the tests, which they are expected to pass to proceed to the next phase.

Upon passing the written exam and the physical agility test, some academies send the candidates’ more extensive application forms to fill out. Candidates should fill out these forms carefully, and return them to the recruitment unit in the respective police department. On receiving the candidate’s application, a competent member of the recruitment team reviews the application. Applicants who have not received information regarding the processing of their applications should call the police academy to inquire about their application status. Once the application is accepted, candidates are then invited to take a recorded oral test, polygraph, and psychological test. Only candidates who pass the oral examination can proceed to the polygraph test and the psychological testing.

After the successful completion of the oral interview, polygraph test and psychological test, the police academy recruiters conduct a background investigation and contact references before writing a report that is the background summary to be reviewed by senior police academy staff. The final candidates’ background summaries are presented to the civil service board for approval and hire. Candidates can still be scheduled for a behavioral interview, a medical exam or drug screen. After the successful completion of all these steps the candidates are enrolled into the appropriate training class.

To qualify for hire as a police officer in the United States of America, most police departments set up the following basic requirements that candidates should fulfill to be considered:
U.S. citizenship
This is a law requirement that provides Americans with the chance to serve their communities as patriotic citizens. Additionally, Americans easily understand the culture, social set-up of the American people including the English language.

Candidates must be at least 21 years of age and for most police academies, at most 35 years to enroll in a police department and get considered. The cut-off age is important and is closely related to the candidate’s physical agility and the correct maturity and mental preparedness for the rigors of police work.

To be considered for the position of a police officer, candidates require a high school diploma or above. Increasingly, though, police departments are requesting candidates to have some college diplomas as well.

Good conduct
Some character traits such as the inability to work in teams or the inabilities to work under pressure are easily weak points at most academies.

Valid drivers License
Many police academies require their candidates to have a valid driver’s license when applying for the position. Police officers need to drive their patrol vehicles daily and having the skill to drive is highly valued in the law enforcement profession.

Physical Health
The physical health of candidates is of extreme importance when candidates enroll. The endurance and strength tests can cause unexpected stress on the cardiovascular system of subjects, leading to fatalities. Candidates with poor health can be advised by recruiters not to enroll for medical reasons.

Some American states require that candidates who enroll into the academy reside in the state they seek to be hired in. Additionally, up to 6 states in the U.S. require that candidates looking to join the police academy must be working as employees of the state at the time of their application.

In case candidates seek to pursue a college education, or in case the candidate is required to have a degree they should try to enroll into a program that focuses on criminal justice or communications. Good police officers should have excellent social and communication skills, should be alert and well aware of the city, state and country laws and effectively manage evidence, conduct interviews and conduct investigations.

Becoming a police officer also requires resilience and patience. Opportunities in this career are very competitive and the chances are made slimmer by the lengthy screening process. Police academies can also take up to 12 weeks to complete and can even proceed to a full year for special requirements training. This comprises of rigorous coursework, physical training and firearms training.

Candidates who have time and really want to be cops in the future should really consider getting a four-year degree (striving for highest grade point average), doing volunteer work, and doing relevant internships.

Ensuring that you have a clean background check is also important to get the job. Candidates must provide a large amount of information regarding past jobs, schooling, family, criminal activity and any other issues. Track records of extreme traffic offences, drug abuse and prior arrests can easily disqualify prospective candidates.

It is also important that the candidates prepare well for the written exam. The written exam is usually administered through the various police departments and there are study guides available in books or online. Candidates should watch for vacancy announcements regularly and prepare for these exams, which sometimes are offered on a regular basis.

Helping with community development and community service also assist candidates in charting a successful path in the police career. When new officers have successfully completed their academy training, they are placed under probation. This is also an important time for new officers, who should be humble and ready to learn under the guidance of experienced law enforcement officers.



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